Tacos and pasta collide in this easy Taco Pasta recipe! Made in one skillet and in less than 30 minutes, Taco Pasta is a creamy, cheesy, family-favorite meal.
If you love pasta and you love tacos, you will love this recipe for Taco Pasta. It is a spin on a taco-inspired version of Homemade Hamburger Helper, and it is everything you desire in a simple family meal.
- Ready in less than 30 minutes.
- Made in one pan.
- Comes together with everyday, affordable, ingredients.
- Picky-eater approved.
Seriously, this Taco Pasta hits a home run! It is the perfect meal to make on a busy weeknight or when you can't decide if you want tacos or pasta.
- Meat: I prefer using lean ground beef for this recipe, but ground chicken or turkey can be used in place of the beef.
- Taco Seasoning: I use homemade taco seasoning to control the sodium and additives. However, feel free to use a packet of taco seasoning if desired.
- Tomato Sauce: Used canned plain tomato sauce, not spaghetti sauce.
- Salsa: Salsa is a great short-cut ingredient. It already has diced onions, peppers, and seasons, and helps to flavor up this pasta perfectly without the need to add several ingredients. Use your favorite jarred, not fresh, salsa for the best consistency. And be sure to pay attention to the spice level--you don't want to use hot salsa when feeding small children.
- Pasta: You can use whole wheat or regular noodles. You want to choose a pasta that will cling to the meat and sauce, like elbow noodles, shell pasta, or rotini noodles. I prefer elbow noodles as they cook up quickly and I always have them on hand.
- Sour Cream: The sour cream is optional, but makes this pasta super creamy.
- Cheese: What is a good taco without the addition of cheese? Shredded cheese will melt into the pasta and makes this dish super cheesy and delicious. You can use cheddar, Monterrey Jack, or a Mexican cheese blend. Pro-Tip: Grate the cheese yourself, as it will melt more evenly than bagged shredded cheese.
How to Make Taco Pasta
- In a large stock pan or skillet, cook the meat over medium-high heat until browned fully, breaking it up into small bite-sized pieces as it cooks.
- Once the meat is browned, drain off any fat, if needed, and return the pan to the heat.
- Add the taco seasoning, tomato sauce, salsa, noodles, and water to the beef mixture, and stir to evenly combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer and cook until the pasta is just tender, stirring occasionally. You may need to add up to an additional cup of water as the pasta cooks if you find the noodles absorbing too much liquid before they are tender.
- Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add the sour cream and cheese and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Let the taco pasta sit for a few minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted into the pasta.
- Serve this cheesy taco pasta mac plain. Or top with diced tomatoes, onions, sour cream, and avocados--anything you like on your tacos!
Recipe Tips and Modifications
- Use the right Pan. Be sure to use a large enough skillet that can brown the meat and fit the pasta and liquid. I find a nice deep dutch or large stock pan best for this pasta recipe.
- Make it Vegetarian. Skip the meat and add 2 to 3 cups of black or pinto beans in place of the browned meat to keep this taco pasta recipe meatless.
- Looking to cut your grocery bill? Use ½ pound of ground meat instead of a full pound. This dish will still be hearty, but you can cut back on the cost.
- Use Leftovers. If you happen to have leftover taco meat, use it in place of the browned meat and omit the taco seasoning from this recipe. You will save time making this recipe AND reinvent your leftovers into something delicious.
- Instant Pot Directions: If you have an Instant Pot, you can enjoy the same results, with less hands-on work using my recipe for Instant Pot Taco Pasta.
- Additional Add-Ins. Feel free to add frozen corn to the pasta while cooking, or stir in a 16-ounce can of drained beans when adding the cheese and sour cream.
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If you enjoyed this Taco Pasta, I would love for you to leave a comment and a review below.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 2 ½ cups water divided
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 cups elbow noodles
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- In a large non-stick skillet, or dutch oven, cook the meat over medium high heat until browned, breaking up into small pieces as the meat cooks. Drain off any excess grease.
- Add in the tomato sauce, salsa, taco seasoning, elbow noodles, and 1.5 cups of water, stirring to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pasta is tender, adding up to 1 cup of water if needed. This will take about 15 minutes for the pasta to be tender.
- Once the pasta is tender, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and sour cream. Serve.
- Meat: I prefer lean 90/10 ground sirloin for this recipe, but you can use any fat percentage you like--just drain off grease well. You can also use ground chicken or turkey in place of beef.
- If you want to keep this pasta vegetarian, use 2-3 cups of black beans.
- Taco Seasoning: 1 Tbsp chili powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, ⅛ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper.
- The sour cream is optional but makes this pasta super creamy.
- Feel free to use more or less cheese as desired.
- Pasta: Whole wheat or regular elbow noodles. You can also use mini shell pasta or rotini pasta.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. This pasta can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Add in 4 cups water or chicken/beef broth to Instant Pot and scrape up all the browned bits off the bottom of the Instant Pot. Turn the Instant Pot off. Add in taco seasoning and stir to combine. Add 16 ounces elbow noodles and gently push down into the liquid to submerge. Top with salsa and tomato sauce. Cook on high pressure for 3 minutes (hit manual and adjust time by using +/_ buttons until the timer reads 3). Once cook time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of any remaining pressure--be sure stand away from vent knob when releasing pressure.
Stir in cheese and sour cream. Let sit for 5 minutes to warm through and serve.